Dear America (previously published at http://www.isis-mag.com/3/post/2013/05/dear-america.html)

Location

15 April 2013, 11:43 PM

150 Boylston Street, Boston

Dear America,

Here’s the thing: I just sat down to write a letter to you assigned by one of my professors about a huge issue plaguing our nation—student debt. Except, right now, I can’t do it. Right now, I really can’t think about the tens of thousands of dollars in student loans I’ll have to payback when I graduate in three years. Right now, that does not seem like that big of an issue at all. Right now, I can’t stop thinking about the fact that someone set off bombs in my city. Right now, I really can’t get past the fact that people died, lost limbs, suffered physical and emotional trauma, and had their worlds rocked, their lives irrevocably altered today. Right now, I want to cry but I can’t. Right now, I feel angry and sad—but mostly confused. Right now, I don’t even know what to do with myself.

I was born here. My parents were born here. My grandparents immigrated here and grew up here. My grandmother worked in the John Hancock building and my dad worked as a policeman at Boston University. I used to come into the city on the weekends all the time—riding the purple commuter rail in for the day. Even after we moved to New Hampshire, I still spent at least a weekend a month exploring Boston.  I have memories associated with every inch of this city. This is my home—it has been since before I was even born. I feel safe here.

I think. Maybe.

The media are saying that three people were killed today, one of them an eight-year old boy. The droves of injured are enumerated at over one hundred. Some lost limbs—legs. I am very aware of my own two legs right now. I imagine that when I fall asleep tonight that’s what I’ll dream about—legs. Running legs, dancing legs, crossed legs, shaky legs.   

            The human body isn’t made to run twenty-six miles in one fell swoop. Marathoners risk stress fractures, dehydration, overhydration, tendinitis, cardiac arrhythmia, and cardiac arrest. They risk developing a swollen heart. Too big a heart.

            The 27,000 individuals running the marathon were defying science and basic physiology. They also defied the psychological boundaries created by running long distances, by pushing their bodies beyond their physical limit. When the two bombs exploded they defied basic human instinct—fight or flight.

            They chose neither. They chose to stay and help the wounded.  

            I don’t feel like I can be justifiably sad right now. I wasn’t there at the scene. The fact that I was planning on heading over the race and the strange “what ifs” plaguing me don’t even matter at all. I wasn’t there.  The 500,000 spectators gathered at the race, the families of those crossing the finish line, the victims of the bombings that were brought to the hospital with perforated eardrums and strangers’ blood staining their clothes—they have a right.

I want to tell you about how it felt to look out my window and see masses of people frantically moving around the Common. I want to tell you how it felt seeing buses of troops driving down Boylston. I want to tell you how it felt to hear the words "Boylston Street is now a crime scene". I want to tell you how it felt to have something hit so close to home. I want to tell you this but I can't. I haven't figured out how it felt yet. I don't know if I'm even allowed to.

Maybe I’m not justified to feel anything but sheer thankfulness for my own life. I’m not allowed to be sad right now, but I still am.  I’m not allowed to be angry right now, but I still am. This rebellion against acceptable emotion does not feel sweetly clandestine, but unacceptably vulgar. I must be an ingrate, a pessimist. Instead of sitting here celebrating my own life, I’m shaking with tears I’m unable to shed and asking myself questions I won’t ever have the answers to. Am I selfish? I don’t know. I can’t answer that question objectively and I’m not brave enough to ask it of someone else.

I like words—they can be beautiful when arranged in the right way.  I never read poetry, but I collect quotes from my favorite books. Tonight, I opened my collection of words —a Microsoft office document—to try and find some words of consolation, or explanation. I came across my favorite quote, “There are stars in the sky and I think that each of them is proof of the ineluctability of fate. They make no sense; they are elevated above the human need for logic and context. And that is why, I think, they are so beautiful.”

            I think I need to see the stars right now.

I can’t see the stars right now. Amidst the lights of downtown Boston and the partly cloudy skies the stars are completely hidden through my window eight stories above Boylston. I need to see them though. It’s imperative that I see them. I need the stars so I can put things back where they belong, back into their proper perspectives. I need the stars because right now I’m afflicted by that human need for logic and context and I need to recognize that not everything makes sense. I need the stars because, goddammit, they’re there—they hang in the sky regardless of what happens and are blinking and twinkling as they have been for thousands of years. I need to see them so I can elevate above this need for context. I need to see them because maybe the stars are windows.

I’m going to go look for them.

 

—Alex

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